Patriots select defensive playmaker in Peter Schrager's 2023 NFL Mock Draft


The New England Patriots have lost some really good players in the secondary over the last couple years.

The list includes Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty and the recently retired Devin McCourty, among others.

Bolstering this group with more high-end talent and depth should be a priority for the Patriots early in the 2023 NFL Draft, and many experts are actually projecting New England will take a defensive back with their first-round pick at No. 14 overall.

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One of them is NFL Network's Peter Schrager, who unveiled his first 2023 NFL mock draft earlier this week. His prediction for the Patriots in Round 1? University of Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon.

"Witherspoon is a top talent and could be off the board within the first eight overall picks," Schrager wrote. "I have him remaining available here ... and the Patriots pouncing. New England could also go with a WR -- and in the scenario I'm sketching out with this mock, they're all still on the board, too."

Witherspoon plays with a lot of swagger and confidence. He makes his presence felt with huge hits and excellent skills in coverage. In fact, Witherspoon's 100 yards allowed in single coverage last season was the lowest of any player, per Pro Football Focus. He's a legit playmaker and someone capable of being a top-tier player at the cornerback position for many years.

Witherspoon tallied 32 solo tackles with 14 passes defensed and three interceptions over 12 games for Illinois last season. 

The Patriots could go offensive tackle or wide receiver in the first round and wait to take a cornerback on Day 2 of the draft. A lot of it might depend on which players are available when the No. 14 pick rolls around.

But if Witherspoon is still on the board at No. 14, the Patriots should seriously consider selecting him. He could make a strong impact as a rookie for a Patriots team that expects to return to the playoffs in 2023.

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